The meaning of the name
Xing - Shape or Form.
Yi - Intension or Will. The Chinese letter for "Yi" is comprised of two sections. The top one means "Sound", and the bottom one means "Heart"/"Mind"/"Knowledge". Intent is the sound of the mind.
Quan - Fist. Denotes the art as being a Chinese Martial Art. It's as in saying: "Xing Yi Fist", "The Fist of Xing Yi", or "Xing Yi Boxing". A common addition to the names of Chinese martial arts, just like Japanese martial arts' names are usually followed by "Do" (Dao in Chinese - Way, Road) or "Jutsu" (Shu in Chinese - Skill, Art) in arts like Ninjutsu and Aikido.
The name "Xing Yi Quan" literally translates as "The martial art of the form and Intension", meaning that Xing Yi is a martial art that uses the power of Intention in order to move the body.
Xing Yi Quan is a martial art that puts much emphasis on moving the whole body as one single unit, while the practitioner advances directly towards the opponent, as in trying to go through and past him, like he's not even there. Most defenses are done while simultaneously attacking, or as a part of the attack itself. The opponent's attacks are diverted with minor circular movements that are kept to a minimum, and the practitioner's attacks are supported by his whole body. The way power is issued in Xing Yi can be imagined as the circular motion of a huge wave crashing on the shore. In more advanced stages the practitioner gains the ability to issue power (attack) from any area or point on his body, from any posture and any range he wishes or is forced to work from.
Zhan Zhuang - Standing pole
Training in Xing Yi starts with practicing Zhan Zhuang- Holding a posture for a period of up to 40 minutes. This is the basis for developing the power used in Xing Yi, improving one's control over his intention, and teaching the whole body to become as one. As the practitioner improves his ability in holding Zhang Zhuang and understanding its principles, the way he practices it changes, and the difficulty level and demands rise.The practice of Zhan Zhuang exists in all schools of Xing Yi, and although the exact shape or form of practice may vary a bit, they all put the same emphasis on the demands described by the Verse of Eight Words (Ba zi jue - "Eight Words skills"). Most schools practice the following stances: WuJi, SanTi Shir, Hun Yuan, Xiang Long and Fu Hu.The famous Tianjin martial artist Xue Dian described this practice as a very slow movement, which the outside onlooker cannot notice. In his description, he tried to clarify that standing in this manner is not "static and relaxed", but is about a slow and intensive internal movement.
Wu Xing (the "Five Fists" or "Phases")
The next step (after Zhang Zhuang) is moving the body on the basis of five different forms of movement ("The Five Phases"). Without this practice, the moment one starts to move, all the abilities acquired by the practice of Zhan Zhuang are lost. Therefore, one must learn to maintain the structure built with Zhan Zhuang even when performing large movements. In this practice, one develops five different powers, which he will afterwards use as the basis for all the other movements.When one begins practicing Xing Yi, there is much importance to the direction of every movement, and the accuracy of every posture. This stems from the fact that the direction of movement and angles of the arms, legs and body are the basis for the correct expression of the practitioner's intention. One can think of the intention as being a liquid, and the form as a vessel. You pour your liquid (Intention) into the Vessel (Form). A crooked vessel (Form) will distort and wrongfully display the Liquid (Intention). Correct body alignment also enables the practitioner to channel power better, just as the supporting beams of a bridge allow the pressure worked upon it to be channeled to the ground. Another important emphasis in practice is maintaining the "Six Harmonies" a major principle in Xing Yi.
The Six Harmonies
The unity between Mind and Intention, Intention with Qi, and the Chi with Power is referred to as "The Three Internal Harmonies". The unity between the palm and the foot, the elbow and knee, and the shoulder and hip joints is called "The Three External Harmonies". This means that the palm is always above and correlated with the foot - when one moves, the other also moves with it. When one stops, the other also stops. While performing any movement, there should always be harmony between the Internal and the External.
The movement of Xing Yi Quan is based on the movement of a fighter holding a long spear. Spear practice helps a lot with developing and improving the abilities gained by practicing the five fists as well as building up their power. Common practices with the spear are "Spear Rubbing" (Hua gan) and a form called "10 Trios of Xing Yi". The practice of spear rubbing is considered part of the basics of the art. The practitioner holds a flexible Chinese Spear at one end, and rubs the other end on a tree using waist movement, in order to feel resistance. The form 10 Trios of Xing Yi is usually practiced with a white and flexible spear made of a populous tree, that is longer than 3 meters (9.84ft). Since the spear is flexible, shaking it returns a strong vibration, forcing the practitioner to learn how to stay stable and absorb the power issued at him.
The Twelve Animals
After the student has learned the Five Fists and have understood the Five Powers, he may begin the study of the 12 animal forms of Xing Yi. The animal forms teach us variations of the five powers previously learned. The animals that are taught are: Dragon, Tiger, Monkey, Horse, Turtle, Chicken, Sparrow Hawk, Swallow, Snake, Tai bird, Eagle and Bear. Despite these forms being named after animals, it is not to be assumed that one is trying to imitate the way they move, but rather to mimic the character and skills traditionally associated with that animal – to learn the nature of the animal and use it one’s advantage, not copy its movements.
Eight Skill Sentences – Ba zi gong
This is a practice of eight new movements, that develop eight useful powers to be of aid to the practitioner. The Eight Powers are: Zhan, Jie, Guo, Kua, Tiao, Ding, Yun and Ling.